Hoover, Ala.—Auburn senior pitcher Jon Luke Jacobs couldn’t ask for anything more. After allowing five earned runs on five hits in just one and one/third innings and throwing just 33 pitches in a 6-0 loss to Florida last Thursday night, he’ll get another shot at the Gators in the First Round of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday in Hoover.
“Coming off a big win we had on Sunday I think it gives us a little bit of momentum, especially going into another game with them,” Jacobs said. “Knowing a lot about the team, we’ll just try to go out there and stick to our gameplan. I think Varny (Derek Varnadore) gave us a good blueprint of how to have success against them on the mound. We played hard on Sunday and that’s the biggest thing going into this week.
“We can play with teams like that and win against good teams. Going into it we just have to keep that confidence rolling. I need to go out there and get us off on the right foot and keep a good demeanor and focus in the dugout for the entirety of the game.”
Jacobs will have the job of holding down one of the top offensive attacks in all of baseball led by All-American catcher Mike Zunino. Hitting .324 this season, the powerful right-hander has 15 home runs and has 51 RBI. Just behind him is right fielder Preston Tucker. A lefty with power to all fields, the senior is hitting .321 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI on the year.
As a team Florida has 66 home runs on the season, eight in front of second-place Kentucky in the SEC. To show how dominant the Gators have been with the long ball this season, no other team in the league has even 40 home runs this year.
The good news for Jacobs and the Tigers is that the SEC Tournament will be played in spacious Regions Park this week. A tough place to hit the long ball even with the hottest of bats, Jacobs said as a pitcher you have to approach things a little differently playing in Hoover.
“With guys that don’t have the power numbers, sometimes you try to split the plate up a little more and let the outfielders go get it,” Jacobs said. “Especially in our case we have a lot of guys out there that can really run the ball down. You’re going to error more on letting them put the ball in play than trying to pick the corners. You want the ball in play as much as possible there because there is a lot of room to catch the baseball. It’s a little different approach, but you still have to make your pitches and let your defense go to work.”
Pitching and defense play a bigger role in college baseball than at any time in the last 25 years with the changes in the bats that came last season. That has shown in 2012 as the Tigers have struggled defensively (last in the SEC) and in giving out walks (fourth-most in the league). Jacobs said that will be a focus for Auburn this week in Hoover without question.
“I think you’re going to see a walk and back-to-back hits and a team ends up scoring a run and that’s it,” Jacobs said. “That might be the difference in the game. The biggest thing is to minimize your walks. You want to do that every week, but especially in a park like that because the scoring might be a little lower and maybe one or two runs and a walk here or there could be the difference in the ball game.”
Auburn (30-26) will try to take down Florida (40-16) at 4:30 p.m. in game three at the SEC Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover. The game can be seen on CSS and also on Channel 210 on DirectTV.
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